"Yesterday I listened... today I loved!"
With Hans Werner Henze, the music world lost one of the most productive and influential composers of our time. In his unique personal style, he wrote more than 40 works for music theatre and ten symphonies as well as concertos, chamber music, oratorios and song cycles.
Formed through his childhood in Nazi Germany and war captivity, from the 60s his political engagement had a strong impact on his compositions, his choice of texts and subjects. He was driven by the belief that, through art, the world could be changed for the better. Throughout his lifetime, he was keen on sharing his insights and experiences with young composers, teachers and amateurs. He had a strong influence on several generations of young musicians and composers.
Born on the 1st of July, 1926 in Gütersloh/Westphalia, he regarded himself as an artist firmly based in the classical-romantic tradition and yet, he could never be identified with any school of contemporary music. His entire thinking, even in his instrumental compositions, was related to an imaginary theatre. Being a highly talented writer himself, many of his works were inspired by texts. His interest never lay in abstract construction, but rather in making statements and conveying messages.
Henze also used his extraordinary communicative skills for political and pedagogical action. He was not only highly influential as a composition teacher, but also founded and managed several festivals such as the Cantiere Internazionale d‘Arte in Montepulciano or the Munich Biennale for New Music Theatre.
Many of his late works - the opera Phaedra (2007), the oratorio Elogium musicum amatissimi amici nunc remoti (2008) and the Whitsun cantata To the Wind, which was premiered by the Thomaner Boys Choir in May 2012 in Leipzig - are somehow related to the theme of death. He was not able to hear his last work any more, which was premiered exactly one week before his death as part of the celebration of the 100th anniversary of Deutsche Oper Berlin, its title being: Overture to a theatre.